Innovative Web App Puts Students on the Fast Track to Graduation

Unique Senior Design sequence impacts society through technology, marking the apex of Stevens educational excellence

5/7/2013

A senior design team has developed an easy to use, stress-free web app that empowers university students to make the most of their educational opportunities by streamlining and automating much of the process whereby they plan a multi-year schedule of courses to take in order to graduate on time.

College students around the world must meet detailed degree requirements to get their desired degree. They and their advisors typically develop a “study plan” that integrates data from multiple sources, including academic catalogs, course schedules, and students’ personal interests or preferences. In fact, web apps already exist that help students plan their course schedules but none of them can handle all of the conditions involved in scheduling for students in degree programs whose requirements are as complex as technical fields such as computer science. As a result, transfer students, students who fail one or more courses, and students who fail to take courses that are at the beginning of long prerequisite chains early enough often have trouble constructing schedules that allow them to graduate on time. In order to facilitate the process and reduce the stress that advisors and students often endure, the team designed and implemented software that solves this problem.

The Study Plan Organizer team, made up of computer science majors Katelyn Kasperowicz, Muhammad Rasyad Safran Ab Rahim, and Raphael Salas, as well as information systems major Nabilah Farhana Yahya took on the considerable challenge of developing software to solve this complex process. They were advised by Professor David Klappholz of the Department of Computer Science.

“I commend the students for their work on the Study Plan Organizer, a project which held an exceeding level of difficulty and real-world data complexity, as well as a very appreciable utility for their community.” says Dr. Klappholz. “The formalization of the intricate details and relationships between courses, prerequisites, and degree requirements  tested their ingenuity and perseverance, and they took on the challenge with aplomb.”

A distinctive feature of Senior Design at Stevens is that it gives students an opportunity to positively impact society by tackling a significant and challenging real-world problem with the knowledge that they have gained through their undergraduate studies. The challenge undertaken by the Study Plan Organizer team hit particularly close to home.  The goal of the project resonated with Katelyn, who had previously switched her major to computer science. “I found myself spending a great deal of time planning and revising my study plan, and I definitely understand the value of a software solution because of my personal experience.” Raphael Salas adds, “I was interested in the project because I have heard friends express frustration at the planning process, and I think our app will really help alleviate the problem.”

Although undergraduates at Stevens work in teams to solve problems every semester, the Study Plan Organizer team members agreed that Senior Design elevated their experience with collaborative work to another level because of the depth and breadth of the project.

According to Katelyn, “This project was unique for me because of its sheer scope. We had the opportunity to take our idea through the whole software development process.” Nabilah adds, “It was exhilarating to work on all these portions of the process and finally deliver a product that people can use in the coming years.”

Muhammad felt senior design truly stood out among his college experiences in that the team members were required to teach and learn from each other. “In addition to the application of the knowledge we’ve gained in class, this project allowed us to work closely with a team on a comprehensive project. It tests your ability to express yourself and present your ideas, as well as your ability to understand and appreciate other people’s views even when they represent a departure from your own.”

The team exhibited their app at the Stevens Innovation Expo on April 24th alongside hundreds of other innovative technologies, products, services and businesses. To see photos of the Expo, be sure to check the Facebook album.